‘Ohi’a Lehua

The informant is my younger sister, and over Spring Break, she and her friend had stayed with me. This is one of the legends she told me while we were getting ready for bed.


There was a man named ‘Ohi’a and a woman named Lehua, and they were in love. But the goddess of fire, Pele, was also in love with the man. Out of jealousy towards the Lehua, and to punish ‘Ohi’a for not returning her affections, Pele cursed ‘Ohi’a into a tree so that the couple could no longer be together. Lehua was devastated, and would cry day after day next to her lover who was now a tree. Out of pity for Lehua, Pele turned her into a blossom on the tree, so the couple could be reunited. To this day, if you pick a flower from an ‘Ohi’a Lehua tree, it will start to rain, because you have separated Lehua from her lover, and the rain is her tears of grief.

Background & Analysis

The informant was raised in Hawaii, and she had heard the legend from friends and teachers at school, as well as from the guides when taking tours of different Hawaiian gardens. The informant does believe in the legend and the superstition of Lehua blossom picking, so she will not pick any flowers from the tree. In the past, a classmate of hers had done so once on a field trip, and within the hour, what was a sunny day, became cloudy and rainy.

This legend has a hint of Romeo and Juliet to it, in that the lovers cannot bear to be separated from one another. It’s also a bit tragic, given how when one goes down, so does the other. This legend is very widespread throughout Hawaii, and this particular variation illustrates the power of Pele, as well as the power of love.

*For another version of this legend, see <http://www.lovebigisland.com/big-island-mythology/ohia-lehua/> or <http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/10/peles_revenge.html>